David Grimes, Chief Technology Officer at NaviSite explains what the next generation of cloud services will be and how they will differ from the current infrastructure-as-a-service solutions The cloud computing market has matured significantly in the past two to three years, becoming almost synonymous with infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS). But if the rapid adoption of IaaS was Cloud 1.0, what does the future hold for cloud beyond IaaS and what services will we see being enabled by cloud in the future? Primarily cloud adoption was driven by cost. Not always in the sense that switching to cloud would reduce spend immediately, but the benefits of moving from a CAPEX to OPEX model was, and continues to be, a compelling proposition to businesses. Other factors have also helped to shape today’s cloud industry. These include the maturation of virtualisation technologies, the ever increasing capabilities of the underlying hardware platforms, and the expertise which service providers have developed in delivering robust, secure solutions using a shared infrastructure model. It is this attraction to ‘as-a-service’ delivery that will continue to fuel the next evolution in cloud services, or Cloud 2.0. Over the coming years we will see many existing offerings adapting to an as-a-service model enabling greater levels of flexibility and operational efficiency.
One emerging opportunity in the as-a-service suit is Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS). Previously a model that had limited success in the market, it is now experiencing increasing demand. This trend can be explained by businesses’ move towards ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) policies, which in itself is a trend that has resulted from a combination of different elements. Firstly, the current generation of employees has expectations of personal choice when it comes to devices in the office. A company supplied mobile phone simply doesn’t cut it for many workers. They want freedom to choose their own — often more advanced — smartphones or tablets. Also, the trend toward a more global, distributed workforce means people need to work where they want, how they want. The flexible nature of desktop-as-a-service helps address many of these issues. For many companies their intellectual property (IP) is the lifeblood of their business, so protecting access to it is critical. DaaS brings with it a host of information security benefits and many companies now use it to help mitigate IP control concerns. Some of the businesses that most benefit from DaaS use large numbers of overseas contractors to work on specific projects for limited periods of time. The business wants to ensure that contractors have access to the source code but not allow them to copy it for use outside of the organisation, onto a USB stick or printer for example. By using a hosted DaaS model for their contracted developers they are able to provide the tools they need and at the same time retain more control, restricting and remotely cutting off access as soon as needed. Other drivers of DaaS are the advances in protocols and networks that have made the hosted desktop experience more acceptable, and in some cases superior, to the traditional desktop. For enterprises, DaaS represents an opportunity to satisfy their employees BYOD desires, replace CAPEX oriented desktop refresh cycles with a more predictable OPEX model, reduce overall IT support costs, and more readily address security and compliance needs.
Another area that will form a significant part of the Cloud 2.0 as-a-service future is storage. Exponential growth in storage needs will be driven by regulatory and compliance requirements, an increase in mobile devices, and the unprecedented growth of unstructured data. It would be difficult to have a discussion about storage today without using the phrase ‘Big Data’. Almost everything we do creates data, and as a result storage requirements are growing rapidly. This rate of growth cannot be met using traditional procurement methods. Storage-as-a-service (STaaS), where servers can be provisioned via the cloud, enables companies to add storage at the click of a mouse rather than the week and months it previously took to get new servers up and running. The clear business advantages in terms of speed of delivery and flexibility that STaaS provides, means that this area has the potential to grow significantly over the coming years.
Aside from DaaS and STaaS there is huge opportunity to transform other traditional methods of service delivery into an as-a-service model. All of these services will embody the essential characteristics of cloud and will likely be delivered from the common platform which defined the original Cloud 1.0. For example, many applications will benefit from both a cost model and operational efficiency perspective through database-as-a service offerings. The new generation of NoSQL databases are much better suited to cloud applications as they are designed to deal with multiple small requests and work in a distributed, horizontally scalable model – several databases spread across different geographies in the cloud. We could also soon see increased adoption of platform-as-a-service (Paas), but that will be dependent on an evolution in applications, which is clearly underway but likely to be a bit slower growing in the immediate future. Disaster recovery is yet another area where the move away from traditional hardware-based solutions will enable the infrastructure to provide additional capabilities. While any complete disaster recovery plan will include considerations at the application layer, the infrastructure itself can do more today than ever before. In this context of Cloud 2.0 it is best to think of cloud as a set of guiding principles as opposed to a term that defines a specific offering or capability. Our vision for Cloud 2.0 will see the evolutionary move from a pure IaaS to a comprehensive suite of as-a-service offerings. To that end, the specific offerings identified here should be considered representative, not exhaustive. The market is continuing to accelerate and we will likely see additional opportunities to apply the as-a-service mindset to legacy and new offerings.
David Grimes is the CTO of NaviSite and has responsibility for the overall technology vision and direction of the company and leads the Research and Development. Grimes moved to NaviSite in 2002 through the acquisition of Clear Blue where he was responsible for overseeing all internal and operational support systems. Prior to that, he was the lead software engineer at AppliedTheory.